Here’s a good pre-debate analysis of Obama’s and Romney’s relative strengths and weaknesses

It’s a LONG PIECE by James Fallows of The Atlantic:

Mitt Romney is far less effective as a big-speech orator than Barack Obama, and in many other aspects of campaigning he displays what appear to be laboriously studied moves rather than anything that comes naturally. But debates are and have been his strength. He grew up enjoying “big, boisterous arguments about everything around the dinner table,” according to his campaign strategist and main debate-prep specialist, Stuart Stevens. “He loves the dialectic of arguing the different sides, and he’s most uncomfortable when no one is disagreeing with him.” He will enter this fall’s encounters with very recent, successful experience in a very wide range of formats and challenges.

In none of the Republican-primary debates was Romney judged the big loser; in many he was the clear winner, and as the campaign wore on, the dominant image from the debates was of a confident Romney, standing with a slight smile on his face and his hands resting easily in his pockets, looking on with calm amusement as the lesser figures squabbled among themselves and sometimes lashed out at him.

Civics teachers won’t want to hear this, but the easiest way to judge “victory” in many debates is to watch with the sound turned off, so you can assess the candidates’ ease, tenseness, humor, and other traits signaled by their body language. By this standard, Ron Paul, with his chronically ill-fitting suits, often looked cranky; Rick Santorum often looked angry; Rick Perry initially looked pole­axed and confused; Jon Huntsman looked nervous; Newt Ging­rich looked overexcited—and so on through the list until we reach Mitt Romney, who almost always looked at ease. (As did Herman Cain, illustrating that body language is not everything.) Romney looked like the grown-up—the winner, the obvious candidate—with or without sound. “He is as good as it gets in debating,” former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, who was the first major contender to drop out of the Republican race, told me. “He is poised, prepared, smart, strategic—tactical, too.”


Barack Obama got himself in trouble only once during his primary and general-election debates four years ago. That was in January 2008, just after Obama’s surprise victory in the Iowa caucuses, when a questioner at a New Hampshire debate asked Hillary Clinton about polls showing that people respected her but didn’t like her. She handled the question with perfect comic-dramatic poise and timing. First she feigned a crushed look and said that her feelings were hurt. Then she said, with melodramatic jokey pluck, “I’ll try to go on!” Finally she said of Obama, warmly, “He’s very likable! I agree with that.” Then, a moment later, and charmingly, “I don’t think I’m that bad.” Obama, obviously off balance, said in reply, “You’re likable enough, Hillary”—a line that was presumably meant to sound light but came across as coldly supercilious, in part because he didn’t even look at her when delivering it. Maybe this was the moment when Obama realized that jock-style put-down banter, common among men in certain circumstances and often associated with both Obama and George W. Bush, comes across very differently when applied by a man to a woman. Or maybe he just made a mistake—one of the very few in his hundreds of hours before cameras during his presidential campaign.

Obama got better, steadier, and more relaxed-seeming as the 2008 debates went on. But they were never his strength, compared with formal speeches, and his team surely realizes that many circumstances of this year’s debates will work to his disadvantage.



  1. Apparently this analysis was spot on. Romney may not win the election, but he just won the first debate.

  2. Neftali


    – CNN had a timer, and Obama received a few extra minutes…but the time for each candidate was actually pretty fair. Romney speaks a bit faster than Obama, so both had a chance to get their point across.

    – Jim Lehr will probably get criticism, but I think he did a good job. He was interrupted frequently, but 2 minutes isn’t enough time for such complex topics.

    – Romney claiming he’s not going to cut the military budget when there are no wars is unrealistic.

    – I liked the debate about the ObamaCare board. Ultimately, Romney won by proving how the private sector comes up with the best practices on how to improve health care, not government.

    – At times, Romney appeared a bit nervous and spoke a bit too quickly. Obama appeared more focused.

    – Obama was more specific , and even mentioned his web site for more details as to his plan. He did a good job of nailing Romney for his lack of specifics.

    – All the idiot netroots like the morons at HuffingtonCompost are focusing on Big Bird, which is a very minor point. However, it was a poor choice for Romney to bring up spending cuts for PBS. But if that’s the only point the liberals have, then Romney clearly won.

    – Nice summary at the end by Romney to mention Constitutional goals. Obama’s references to Lincoln’s policies to justify his own massive increases in government was a complete miss.

    – As expected, Drudge Report is clearing Romney the winner with their “Round Won” headline.

    – Great point about Romney working with Democrats every Monday as Governor of Massachusetts, and Obama failing to work with Republicans. “The goal is not to sacrifice principles, but to find common ground.” Well stated by the Governor.

  3. Neftali

    Watching MSNBC right now. Its pretty darn funny how ticked off and disappointed they are.

  4. Neftali

    Here’s a link to the video of MSNBC’s epic crybaby rant. Its one for the ages.


  5. Neftali

    From Bill Maher:

    “Obama made a lot of great points tonight. Unfortunately, most of them were for Romney ”


    “i can’t believe i’m saying this, but Obama looks like he DOES need a teleprompter ”


  6. Neftali

    okay….last one…currently the headline for HuffgingtonPost reads “Romney wins the night”

    and here’s the Daily Kos headline “A loss, but not a game changing one”


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